Resurgence in Asian market for antique pocket watches

In an interview with the New York Times, Daryn Schnipper, chairwoman of Sotheby’s international watch division, has given an insight into the current antique pocket watch market and how pocket watches are significantly increasing in popularity in the Asian market.

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Ten years ago, there was little Asian interest in pocket watches, with the interest instead being in wrist watches, which were seen as more practical to purchase. Since around 2008, the Asian market for antique pocket watches has exploded, with Asian buyers often making up a quarter to a third of sales at international auctions.

There has been particular interest in pocket watches made for the Chinese and Asian markets, first the London antique pocket watches made in England in the eighteenth century, then the timepieces made in Switzerland during the nineteenth century. Known as Chinese calibre pocket watches, these pocket watches have their plates and bridges fashioned in such a manner as to appeal to the Chinese and Asian markets, with engraved foliate designs decorated with enamel scenes of flowers or portraits.

The surge in Asian interest in antique pocket watches has also had a knock-on effect on the Western market, with many Swiss museums in competition to buy back the pocket watches that were crafted for the Asian market in their country. The Asian market interest is also expanding to other pocket watches not made for their market, as pocket watches are being bought more and more for collectable rather than practical purposes.